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Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in Nepal

Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in Nepal

For Buddhist pilgrims Nepal is a must-visit destination as it is the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha. Important Buddhist pilgrimage sites include Lumbini, where Lord Buddha was born, Tilaurakot in Kapilvastu where he grew up, Devdaha the maternal home of Queen Maya Devi (Lord Buddha’s mother), the high mountainous zones of Dolpo, Mustang, Tsum Valley and Khumbu Himal; and many sites in Kathmandu valley.

Lumbini: It won’t be wrong to mention that Lumbini is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world, as it is from here where Buddha’s story began. It was here in the sacred garden where a heavily pregnant Queen Maya Devi while on her way to her maternal home in Devdaha gave birth to Prince Siddharth, who later came to be known as Sakyamuni Buddha the enlightened one, the founder of Buddhism.

Buddhist pilgrimage
Birthplace of Lord Buddha, Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini (Image source: Wikipedia)

Developed by the Lumbini Development Trust, the pilgrimage site at Lumbini features the Maya Devi Temple, Sacred Garden, Puskarini Pond, a museum and a host of Buddhist monasteries and temples built by countries with large Buddhist following such as Japan, Thailand, Tibet, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, China and Korea. The pilgrimage site at Lumbini is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient ruins of the Shakya palace at Tilaurakot (Kapilvastu), where Lord Buddha grew up and Devdaha, said to be the maternal home of Queen Mayadevi, are also important archeological and pilgrimage sites.

Buddhist Pilgrimage
Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple-Patan) (Image: Fllickr, Allie Caulfield)

Kathmandu Valley: In Kathmandu Valley, major Buddhist pilgrimage sites include the Boudhanath Stupa, Namo Buddha, Swoyambhunath, Asura Cave in Pharping and the ancient Buddhist temples in Patan. Legend has it that Lord Buddha visited Kathmandu and blessed the locals. Centuries later emperor Ashoka, a devout Budhhist also visited the city and erected the Ashoka stupas at the four cardinal points in Patan, one of the three medieval cities in Kathmandu valley. Hiranya Varna Mahavihar or the Golden Temple, Mahaboudha and Rudra Varna Mahavihar or Uku Baha are some of the ancient Buddhist shrines worth a visit in Patan. The great white dome of Boudhanath Stupa standing atop a giant mandala is one of the largest stupas in the world. King Manadeva (464-505 AD) is believed to have built the stupa. According to a popular legend the remains of the Kassapa Buddha (a previous incarnation of Lord Buddha) is believed to have been interred at the base of the stupa. Swoyambhunath Temple, built by the Boddhisattva Manjushree is also an important pilgrimage Buddhist pilgrimage site.

Buddhist Pilgrimage site
Namobuddha

The shrine at Namobuddha is related to Lord Buddha’s previous birth. The story goes that he fed his flesh to a starving tigress and her cubs at this site. The Asura Cave in Pharping is an important pilgrimage site for followers of Tibetan Buddhism as Padmasambhava or guru Rinpoche the founder of Tibetan Buddhism is said to have meditated at this cave.

Buddhist Pilgrimage Site
Chumming Gyatsa or Muktinath Temple (Image: Wikipedia)
Maratika Cave in Halesi
Maratika Cave in Halesi(Image: Flickr, Jocelyn Wong)

Inner Himalayas: The high mountainous regions of Dolpa, Mustang, Tsum Valley and Everest also has a number of ancient shrines and monasteries dedicated to Lord Buddha and blessed by Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava. Chumming Gyatsa at Muktinath, Maratika Cave in Halesi(eastern Nepal), Jampha Lakhang at Upper Mustang, Chhairo Gompa in Lower Mustang, Shey Gompa in Dolpo are some of the most ancient and sacred Buddhist shrines in Nepal Himalaya.

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